Chuck's Corner

A Thanksgiving Message

November 17, 2021

I am grateful for school. 

You may be thinking, “I certainly hope so; it’s his job!” Perhaps this statement seems obvious since I am a Head of School, but COVID has deepened my gratitude for and awareness of school. Until recently, I didn’t realize how much I appreciate aspects of school I may have previously taken for granted, including class every day, Friday Night Lights, Theatre Alfresco, dances, and simply seeing smiling, laughing students. 

Do you know who brought that recognition to light for me? Our students. Specifically our Seniors. The last couple of years have been intense — decisions to make, hybrid teaching,  playground zones, lunch inside and outside, masks, spectators online, staying connected, emails, questions, feedback. I’ve come to understand deeply the saying, “Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it's gone.” Have you experienced this? I bet I’m not alone in experiencing new appreciation for what we used to take somewhat for granted. 

Gratitude is funny like that. Our Senior class has experienced nearly two years of COVID. The result could have been frustration, bitterness, or worse, but they chose to surf the waves of change and seemingly say, “Challenge accepted!” Admirably, they demonstrate the best of what we aim to instill in our students — tenacity, creative problem solving, teamwork, leadership. The Class of 2022 has no time for negative time and space. They live in the present. They hang out in the quad with friends and enjoy their time in the sun. Collectively, they fill the stands on a Tuesday night to be together, support their peers, and celebrate with Hawk spirit. Time and again, I see them go the extra distance, take an extra step, cheer louder, experiencing life and gratitude for the moment. 

I’ll share three stories with you from this fall that embody this spirit of gratitude — moments with students that brought a smile to my face and filled my heart. Keep in mind that these are just a few of the many stories we experience daily at Latin that bring joy to our students and our school. They’re moments to savor. The collective smiles are why I am grateful for school.

The entire Lower School recently embarked on the annual Aspire to Be… project. This year’s theme is Aspire to be Seen. Each grade level read books that explore identity and self-affirmation, and the project culminated with an impressive, large-scale art installation along the Lower School corridors. A primary goal in this unit is to discuss, model, and support belonging, which includes being seen and valued beyond our external, visual identifiers. In Grades TK–4, students interviewed one another, but in Grade 5, our eldest Lower School students interviewed the faculty. Elliot Meek from Grade 5 interviewed me. He came to my office and talked with me about the project and countless other things. In fact, we visited for 20 minutes. “I’m known for my socks,” he told me. “And I am the Varsity Boys’ #1 basketball fan.” I treasure that time with Elliot and am grateful for the friendship that has ensued.

Elliott and Mr B

Last month, Grade 6 Middle School students, Lillie Boone, Kennedy Clutter, and Eve Willette, initiated a THINK PINK day for Breast Cancer Awareness month. They encouraged students and faculty to wear pink, and did they ever! Even Fisher, our Middle School emotional support dog, was decked out in pink. It was a tremendous success. Students and faculty in both Middle and Upper Schools united in a pink sea of citizenship for a worthy cause. It did my heart good.

MS Think Pink

Finally, when our Varsity Soccer team played Charlotte Country Day on a Tuesday night last month at CCDS, our students were asked to be in their stands on their side. We had a lot of kids there. The sheer number of students who were there in support makes me proud. But after the game, as I was leaving, I saw our CLS students in the stands going row by row, picking up trash left by our fans. Seniors Mary Schleusner and Kyleigh Panther led this effort. An impressive example of responsibility, Hawk-pride, and “Challenge accepted.” I am proud of their initiative, and it is but one representation of the daily modeling these students do on our campus. I am grateful for their leadership and civility and the strong example they set. 

These are a few of the wonderful stories showing how Latin students live our Mission and Core Values. As we approach Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, it is the people in my life for which I am most thankful. There may be supply chain issues for holiday gift-giving, but community is in full supply at Charlotte Latin in this season of giving thanks — especially among our student body — and for that, I am most grateful.

With gratitude for a job I love,


Charles D. Baldecchi
Head of School
 


 

Voice Matters

Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman

 

February 21, 2021

 

Watch and Read Gorman's "The Hill We Climb"

 


We are striving to forge a union with purpose

 

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and

 

conditions of man

 

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us

 

but what stands before us

 

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

 

we must first put our differences aside


Watching Amanda Gorman read her poem, "The Hill We Climb," is as moving today as it was the first time I saw it, if not more so. The poem is an astonishing accomplishment that supersedes any iambic pentameter I've ever known. Its rhyme, delivery, and innovation are piercing. As we honor Black History Month and the lives and legacies of those who have gone before us, this young Black woman, through her words and her voice, creates history before our very eyes and forges a path for the nation to follow.

 

Precise. Clear-eyed. Optimistic. Ready. Committed. Hopeful. Heard. Energized.

 

These are words that come to mind as I've reflected on her message over the past several weeks. I've thought not only about her words but also about her youth. She is 22 years old — the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, and our country's first National Youth Poet Laureate, which she was named in 2017 — at the age of 18! Gorman grew up in Los Angeles and was raised by a single mother, a sixth-grade English teacher in Watts. (Read her bio on Wikipedia.) She studied Sociology at Harvard University, graduating cum laude. Her additional accomplishments include writing books, two of which were concurrent New York Times bestsellers, being named in College Women of the Year by Glamour Magazine, receiving a genius grant from OXY Media, and reciting a poem at the 2021 Super Bowl. All by the age of 22!

 

We watched and we marveled. But most importantly we heard and we listened. And we learned that just like words matter, voice matters. The energy in Gorman's delivery is palpable. Her voice is the voice of our tomorrows, the voice of America's young people — and the voice of our students. Hers is a message of hope for a better, more harmonious world. She reminds us that wisdom, when paired with voice, can change the world. Hearing her confirms for me how important it is to listen to young people — to hear their dreams, listen to their challenges, and work to understand their perspectives.

 

We will not be turned around

 

or interrupted by intimidation

 

because we know our inaction and inertia

 

will be the inheritance of the next generation

 

Our blunders become their burdens

 

"Our inaction and inertia…; Our blunders become their burdens…" — such perception from a 22-year-old. In my class, we talked about how someone so young could be a spokesperson for a generation, how young people like Gorman and climate activist, Greta Thunberg, can be heard, and how they can shape the opinion — and the direction — of the world. Our classroom conversation about students' own impact at Latin — and in the world — was exciting and enlightening for both my class and me, touching the very essence of why I teach and choose to work in education. 

 

Other groups and classes have continued the conversation as well. Gorman's poem was recently the topic of a Middle School initiative called Middle School Chat and Chew, a time and space where young students and faculty gather virtually to share thoughts about important events and issues. It is vital that we continue the conversation and celebrate Gorman's role and place at this point in our own history and futures. 

 

Through her inauguration poem, Gorman addresses issues of race and divisiveness in our country with candor. But it is her optimism that sets her words apart, with positivity and hope about a future that today's youth — her peers — deserve to hear and embrace. I continue to be energized by her words and reminded of why it is important to listen to our youth, our students. We stand to learn so much from them. 

 

We the successors of a country and a time

 

Where a skinny Black girl

 

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother

 

can dream of becoming president

 

only to find herself reciting for one

 

And yes we are far from polished

 

far from pristine

 

but that doesn't mean we are

 

striving to form a union that is perfect

 

We are striving to forge a union with purpose

 

 

A Thanksgiving Message from Mr. B

November 2020

A 30% return is quite impressive. Who wouldn't take that investment if it only required a small change in one's life? A couple of years ago, our family made such a change. My wife, Erin, took courses through the University of Pennsylvania and The Flourishing Center in New York. During her research, an interesting statistic popped out. Expressing gratitude daily increases a person's well-being by 30%. That seemed crazy. How would it work? What exactly would one need to do to reap the benefits? What exactly is "gratitude?" We decided as a family to give it a try; what could we lose? 

We are lucky to eat dinner together as a family most nights, and we have a family tradition to bless the food. We decided that following the blessing, every family member would go around and explicitly say what he or she was "thankful for." I don't want to give any false impressions here. Most evenings, the kids pick something mundane or easy to be thankful for. They scan the kitchen for an idea and race each other to be the first to share the easy ones. These include, "I am grateful for Ida and Frodo (our dogs)" or a barely audible "mom's spaghetti" as my son shovels a full bite into his mouth and speaks with his mouth full (note to self: we also need to work on manners) or "my friends" or "mom and dad." As anyone who has teenagers knows, a response beyond a one-word answer is a win for any parent starving for information. Cynicism aside, Erin and I decided to stick with the "gratitude talk." Two years later, it has become a family tradition.

Every once in a while, we get a nugget, and surprisingly, during COVID, those nuggets are coming pretty frequently. Instead of the muffled "thank you for making pasta," we recently heard, "I really appreciate the fact that we have dinner together every night as a family. I know how hard you worked to cook this meal, and I have enjoyed all of this family time together during COVID." Silence followed that one — and the next sound heard was Erin's jaw hitting the kitchen table. Here are a few more. Instead of "I am grateful for Ida and Frodo," our youngest acknowledged, "After a difficult day at school, I love that I can go upstairs to my bedroom and hug Ida for 30 minutes. She listens and doesn't say anything back at all; she just listens. We are so lucky to have our dogs." Another shared, "I am really grateful for Latin's Cheer Team and the girls on the team. I was worried about moving schools during my junior year and making friends. The girls on the team are awesome. It's not cliquey at all, and everyone really looks out for each other and is so encouraging." 

Science says that the real advantage is in the details. The more specific you are about your gratitude, the bigger impact it has. While those moments don't happen often, when they do, it's beautiful to experience. When your child acknowledges how lucky she is and how grateful he is, it puts everything into perspective. 

This fall, Erin and I noticed a definite shift in our family gratitude talks. The mundane, frequently taken for granted aspects of school and life at Latin, come up often. "I am so grateful we have the opportunity to have class in person. I can't believe I am saying this, but I am grateful for school." Another one mentioned was, "I am grateful my teacher met me before school today to go over my quiz. They didn't need to do that." or "COVID is stressful on students, but you can tell how stressful this is for faculty. They have to teach us in class and the students at home. It is crazy how difficult it is to go back and forth between the two. They are really making a difference." 

November always makes me think about gratitude, with the month culminating in Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday), when we spend time with family, eat great food, and live in the moment. Gratitude comes from reflection, and as I reflect on 2020, it's been a year of great disruption and hardship. COVID has not just inconvenienced our lives; it has brought sickness and death, stress and anxiety, disconnection, and isolation — the list could go on and on. But 2020 also highlighted and prioritized what is important — truly important — in life. This year, more than any other in my career has shown me what a community can accomplish together that it could never approach if we worked as individuals. While I certainly receive phone calls where a parent or faculty member can only see what is in it for their child or how it affects them as an individual, every day, every week, every month I hear from parents, faculty, volunteers, students, alumni — members of the Latin community — who sacrifice their individual wants and desires for that of the greater good. Paradoxically, and altruistically, something amazing happens as a result of that sacrifice, collectively we receive far more from Latin than if we each got what we wanted. I see it when volunteers give their free time to monitor lunch and conduct temperature screenings. I see it in the generosity of our community as their donations to the Latin Fund offset the incredible costs incurred during COVID. I see it in the grace given by parents, faculty, and students to each other. 

Quite simply put, I am grateful for Charlotte Latin School. While the research says the return on well-being should be 30%, I want to acknowledge the return has been far greater and more substantial than any data point can capture.

P.S. If you are interested more in the power of gratitude, here are some wonderful resources. 

Back to School 2020

August 21, 2020

We've enjoyed a successful first week back at school!

 

A Note from Mr. B: Back to School 2020

August 12, 2020

Mr. B’s charge to the faculty about Courage and Resilience delivered during Latin’s opening faculty meeting:

I was boarding a plane a couple of summers ago as I was making a connection through Atlanta. I was just shuffling along feeling the pressure of the countless passengers behind me pushing their way on board. I was looking at my feet and then I looked up. And there he was, seated in the last row of First Class. I did a double-take and stopped right in my tracks. I could feel the person behind me slam into my back as the back-up trickled down the row. I had been privileged enough to hear him speak in person once and certainly numerous times on television, but I was now two feet from history — a hero in my midst — a living legend. John Lewis was easing into his seat and organizing his belongings. I stared right at him, speechless. It was as if time stopped for me. I did not want this moment to pass without saying something. He looked up at me and smiled and I was jarred back to reality. The person behind me poked me in my back. I wanted to turn around and say, “Do you know who this is?!” I gathered my composure and looked Mr. Lewis in the eye and said what was in my heart, “Mr. Lewis, I want to thank you for your service to this country. You are a role model for the ages and have made this country a better place for all to live. Thank you!”

He smiled, nodded his head, and said thank you. As I shuffled back to my seat and got myself settled, I began to cry. I have this weird reaction when I see someone like that who has literally changed history, someone who has sacrificed so much for the common good. It also happens when I watch a compelling documentary or film about someone who has changed the course of history for the good. I cried watching his funeral this summer as well, with all that occurred this summer with COVID and arguably the most significant civil protests in decades. His funeral was very emotional for me and encapsulated all that was going on in the world.

We talk a lot about courage in education; we talk a lot about resilience in our students. John Lewis is a man of real courage in my opinion. He was quiet. He spoke with his actions not with bravado. He was calm in the face of chaos. In his 20s, he was leading freedom rides, organizing and speaking at the March on Washington, and famously led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where he got his skull cracked in. Most importantly, he stood back up and marched again. He kept marching and getting into “good trouble” until his last breath. His whole life has been about courage and resilience. Taking a stand, failing or falling down, and getting back up.

This is in stark contrast to what most of us and our students are willing to handle. I can still hear my son remark in early June, “This is going to be the worst summer ever!” My daughter was right behind him exclaiming, “This is going to be the worst senior year!”

It’s hard to believe they are only a couple of years younger than the young freedom rider John Lewis. Many have commented that this pandemic is our country’s first test of courage since 9/11. We have to dig deep to face this challenge and the resilience not to give up. Courage and Resilience are critical to our getting through this pandemic successfully. Courage in my mind is predicated on acknowledging fear. One has to be scared, frightened, or anxious in order to have courage. In my mind, courage is facing that fear and continuing in spite of it. That is also why it is so connected to resilience. Courage is about not giving up; it is about resilience. The two are so inextricably intertwined. I want to state for the record that I am not comparing what John Lewis faced in his life and what he accomplished with going to school in a pandemic. But it is the challenge we are faced with now and the one in front of us. Courage and resilience are what we will need as we head into our 6th month of COVID. As we strap on our face coverings again; as we plan classes, for both remote and in-person learning; as we build on the work we did in the spring.

Our students will also need to build their resilience — as yet another milestone event is canceled, a sports season is altered, or a concert is recreated. This is a time to teach resilience. Acknowledge the loss, but encourage them to reimagine school.

The other truth is that great memories will come from this fall and this year. All will not be lost and actually much will be gained. We all have so much. We need some struggle in our lives. 2020 has been a year that has given us plenty to struggle with. The value of this year is not the struggle as much as it is the survival. Resilience is in us; we just did not recognize it. Courage is in us; we just had to face the fear in front of us.

My attitude is this: Struggle is a gift. Failure is a gift. Inconvenience is a gift. Finding courage and resilience inside us all are a gift. By the way, my son’s summer — his last year of camp after 13 years — ended up being, “the best summer ever!” I have a feeling my daughter will echo the same 9 months from now. It may take a while to fully realize it, but I believe we will all be acknowledging that truth when we look back upon these difficult times. Maybe there will be some “good” to come out of this “trouble.”

Here is to a great year – Go Hawks!

Mr. Chuck Baldecchi headshot
Chuck Baldecchi,
Head of School

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